September 23, 2023


It's Your Education

Postdoctoral Research Associate, ICHP, Social Science job with DURHAM UNIVERSITY

Department of Engineering

Grade 7: – £33,797-£35,845 per annum

Fixed Term – Full Time
Contract Duration: 12 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 23-Mar-2021, 7:59:00 AM 

Durham University 

Durham University is one of the world’s top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people’s lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

Durham Energy Institute (DEI) supports and produces cutting-edge energy research drawing on the expertise of world-leading researchers across Durham University’s departments in Science, Social Science, Humanities and Business. DEI was born in 2009 out of the realisation that energy challenges cross conventional discipline boundaries and that new ways of thinking about and conducting energy research are required. DEI has now grown into an internationally leading institution, recognised for its ability to apply new methods and perspectives to existing and emerging energy challenges. By unlocking research synergies between different disciplines and sectors, DEI aims to produce major breakthroughs in our understanding of how to best meet the energy demands of the future. Working together across departments enables us to build on world-leading research in specific energy technology areas integrating perspectives from Social Sciences and Humanities to generate insights into how technology is shaped by, adopted by, and influences society. DEI addresses energy challenges collaboratively through strong partnerships with industry, international partners, governments, community groups and other academic institutions, ensuring that our research is relevant, timely and effective. The successful applicant will be invited to apply for a non-stipendiary fellowship of DEI.

Durham Anthropology is one of the best in the UK with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. We are 24th in the QS World Rankings, tenth in the Complete University Guide, and one of the UK’s top five anthropology departments for graduate prospects. The Department of Anthropology has a vibrant research culture with many visitors, seminars, global conferences and workshops, and is set to grow significantly over the next ten years. We were the top-ranked integrated Anthropology department in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, being fifth in the UK for overall GPA (Times Higher Education), first equal for world leading and internationally excellent Impact and Research Environment, and second equal for world leading publications. We aim to provide a supportive and friendly environment with a strong sense of community. Currently there are more than 30 permanent members of academic staff, conducting world class excellent research in Evolutionary Anthropology, Social Anthropology and the Anthropology of Health. The department is well represented in University research Institutes and Centres, and has a close relationship with the Durham Energy Institute.

Durham Engineering is one of the very best UK Engineering Department with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. The Department is ranked 4th in the Guardian and 6th in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 in the UK for General Engineering, providing outstanding course content that equips young engineers with the problem solving skills of the 21st century. We have a long history and tradition of Engineering. Engineering has been taught at Durham University since 1838 making it the first course of its kind in England. We have helped to shape the past and continue to shape the future.

The Role

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Social Anthropology or Human Geography with a particular emphasis on local government, energy policy and regulation, planning and development, to work on a project in collaboration with regional infrastructure networks. The researcher will report to Professor Simone Abram in the Department of Anthropology, Professor Tony Roskilly and Dr Andrew Smallbone in the Department of Engineering.

Summary of the project context: 

Across the UK, 80% of the heating in buildings and industries is generated using natural gas. According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy, transitioning to electricity, hydrogen and bioenergy have the potential to make a significant contribution toward delivering low carbon heating. With respect to hydrogen, one potential approach is to use the existing natural gas distribution pipe network to transport hydrogen. As might be expected, the immediate challenges relate to safety and cost of retrofit, however hydrogen deployment is more than an opportunity to decarbonise heat. It offers mutual benefit to the decarbonisation of transportation, the wider electrical energy system, energy storage and other energy services.

Aim and objectives

The project aims to bring together expertise in policy, economics, social science, energy systems modelling and thermal engineering. The team aims to explore the potential to supply heating and cooling to domestic, commercial and industrial end-users via integrated zero-carbon emission cooling, heating and power (ICHP) networks using hydrogen. The project will address the following objectives:

1. At a national scale, identify potential regions, key sites and the technologies for hydrogen production, distribution etc. together with suitable sites for ICHP energy distribution centres. Explore the potential of deployment for the wider UK energy system in terms of policy, economics, operation and emissions.

2. At a local scale, determine how cost-effective an ICHP energy distribution network might be for providing thermal and electrical energy services, including its impact on consumers and compare with conventional and future alternative solutions.

3. To build an ICHP energy centre design, assess, and optimise its performance as a system and understand the demands on its components based on alternative utility demand scenarios.

4. Engage with potential ICHP energy centre stakeholders and end users to understand the potential of the technology from multiple (engineering, social and economic) perspectives.

The advertised post is for a social scientist to work on Work Package 4: Governance and design of ICHP energy centres. WP4 will be carried out by 2 PDRAs, one technical and one a social scientist. It will propose two case study locations to evaluate the governance issues surrounding the design and implementation of H2 energy centres in rural and urban areas.

Planning case studies: Working with CCCDurham County CouncilCadent GasWales & West Utilities, National Grid, and others the WP will map the relevant planning, policy and regulatory aspects for energy centre designs derived from earlier work packages. A set of specific potential locations will be evaluated as exemplars for future energy centres, including commercial, industrial, public-sector, public housing, urban and suburban sites. A set of key governance issues will be outlined, to inform technical design processes and to produce a set of policy recommendations to facilitate the implementation of ICHP centres.

End user engagement: Two workshops will be carried out which aimed to explore the challenges and opportunities of ICHP systems and thus shape the development of sub-objectives for the work. This will also involve engagement with end users and explore the potential challenges and with the wider acceptance of hydrogen. It will be used to define the choices for the adopted test scenarios

The researcher will report on the outputs of the workshop, sub-objectives of the project. The researcher will publish at least one Journal article on consumer perspectives on hydrogen/ ICHP energy systems.

The successful appointee will report to project leaders at Durham University, providing written reports and submitting at least one jointly-authored academic article based on project findings within the term of employment.

Responsibilities :

The successful applicant will be expected to organise and conduct primary research under the direction of the project leaders, in relation to the goals outlined above. They will be based in the department of Anthropology, but will be expected to work across disciplinary boundaries, and to engage with colleagues in the department of Engineering. They will have primary responsibility for empirical fieldwork, collection and analysis of data and for the production of publishable outputs, as well as regular reports to the project partners.

Other responsibilities include the following:

  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.  

This post is fixed term for 12 months (or part time equivalent) from 1st April 2021.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1st April 2021. 

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Simone Abram ( All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. 

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;  

Next Steps

It is hoped to shortlisted candidates who will be invited for interview and assessment on 1st March 2021.

The Requirements



  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in Social Anthropology, Sociology, Human Geography or a field related to governance and planning.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national and international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience of organising workshops for research and impact
  • Knowledge of energy and development governance
  • Experience in participatory (qualitative) research methods.


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience of local government or similar bureaucratic institutions.
  • Experience of comparative international research.
  • Experience related to infrastructure development.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 
  • Demonstrable ability to prepare oral, written and poster presentations to convey information about research to academic, professional and public audiences.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.